Friends in Low Places

Erin Conant

Like a friend who lends a hand pulling weeds or installing a new watering timer for your outdoor faucet, garden helpers come in various forms – each with their own talent.

There are thousands of beneficial insects that play an important role in keeping plants and soil healthy. Some of them include:

  • Parasitic wasps in the larval stage commonly prey on destructive garden pests such as aphids, flies and cutworms. One type, the trichogramma wasp, is widely sold in garden centers and distributed to help control worm pests within fruit trees and vegetable crops.
  • Ladybugs are famous for their rapid consumption of aphids. They can devour several thousand aphids in their life span of about one year!
  • Beneficial nematodes are among the smallest of garden helpers. These little guys spend their lives in the soil, feasting on a large variety of pests including fleas, grubs, mole crickets and weevils. Unlike other beneficial bugs, nematodes are sold on a small sponge and must be soaked in water before the resulting solution is applied to the landscape.

Spend some time in your landscape identifying the pests you see. Knowing what’s in your backyard and seeking the guidance of an entomologist, a local nursery professional, or literature such as the Texas Bug Book will help you choose the most effective beneficial insects.

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